This is seriously epic.
Almost 5 years ago, while I was still in my hometown of Washington, D.C., I had a rice salad (from Marvelous Market) that changed my life. And now I’ve recreated it… maybe even improved it.
The beauty of this salad is that it’s year-round. In the fall and winter it works beautifully as a stuffing or as a side dish to any roast chicken, turkey or pork. In the spring and summer it’s your ultimate picnic food. Durable, travels easy, lasts for days… it even gets better in the day or two after you make it, so make a lot!
1 package Wild Rice Blend (or 2 cups of just straight-up wild rice)
2 cups Chicken Stock or that Homemade Veggie Stock from last week
1 1/2 cups Dried Cranberries
1 cup Slivered Almonds (toasted)
1/2 cup Pecan Pieces (toasted)
4 scallions (spring onions)
1 orange (both zest and juice) (optional)
4 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar (red wine vinegar can be substituted)
Salt & Pepper (freshly ground… don’t stuff around)
1 Large Sauce Pan
1 Small Sauce Pan
1 Medium Skillet (if you’re toasting your own nuts)
1 Large bowl (for mixing and/or serving)
1 Citrus Zester (if you’re incorporating the orange zest)
Start by heating a tablespoon or two of olive oil in your large saucepan on medium heat and slice your scallions while you wait. Separate the white and green sections of the scallions.
Set aside the green portion and add the white portion to your hot oil, let sauteé for 3-5 minutes. Next add your rice blend or rice to the pot, along with your 2 cups of stock.
Turn the heat up and bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes (or until liquid is absorbed). Once you’re rice is finished simmering, remove from heat and keep covered for 5-10 minutes.
This is how rice is typically cooked through the “absorption” method, but if you want to follow the direction for cooking your rice according to its packaging, go for it, and add your cooked scallion whites afterwards.
While your rice is simmering, toast your nuts if needed. Simply toss them in a dry skillet over medium heat and stir/shake often to prevent charring.
This generally takes about 10 minutes, but use your eye and leave them on till they are a nice golden brown and have filled your kitchen with the scent of heaven. I love that smell! Turn off the heat, let cool, and set aside.
Now, if you’re adding the orange, go ahead and zest the orange, being very careful to only zest the orange-colored outer peel. You only need about a teaspoon anyway. If you go down to the white it’s bitter and horrid and will ruin this epic rice salad. Take it easy. Set aside the zest.
Now, juice the orange. This can be done by hand since you only need about a shot glass (of course I keep those handy…) worth. Set aside the juice.
Now, your rice should be at least halfway done, so we can get started on the cranberries.
Toss your cranberries into the small saucepan over medium-high heat with the vinegar and equal parts water. That means 4 Tbsp vinegar + 4 Tbsp water. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 3-5 minutes, or until the majority of the liquid is absorbed.
Do not, under any circumstance, lean over the steaming vinegar fumes or they will blind you worse than any onion-chopping marathon. Trust me on this one. Set aside to cool.
Once all the elements (rice, nuts, cranberries and zest) are ready it’s time to combine!
Toss everything into a large bowl with salt and pepper to taste (tbsp salt + tsp pepper, more or less) and mix well. I mean, really well. You want all those flavors getting together and making sweet… uh, harmony, with each other.
And voilá! You have the most epic wild rice salad ever.
It can be served warm, right away, but room temperature is my favorite because the flavors stand out more. Remember, this can be kept in the fridge for up to three days in an airtight container, and like a fine whiskey, it gets better with age.